There’s something of a formula to the first morning of jury duty. It might involve a refresher on differences between civil and criminal cases, a little bit of shuffling between rooms, and a lot of waiting around in a generously named “Jury Lounge.” But in one federal district, the customary civics lessons for jurors have been given a twist to alert them to the hidden biases they might bring into the courtroom.Here's the video:
The source is a 10-minute video — believed to be the first of its kind — that since March has been shown to every prospective juror in the two federal courthouses, in Seattle and Tacoma, that serve the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.
The video — which cost the court $15,000 to make — complements the customary voir dire process, during which judges and lawyers question potential jurors about conflicts of interest and obvious prejudices that could prevent them from deliberating fairly. It features three speakers: the district’s U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes, Reagan-appointed Judge John Coughenour, and Jeffrey Robinson, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who started his career as a criminal defense lawyer.
“You might have a deep-seated belief that basketball is a better sport than football, and you may prefer strawberry to raspberry jam,” Robinson says in the video, describing examples of conscious — or explicit — bias. “Today, though,” he says, speaking slowly and looking directly into the camera, “I want to talk to you about unconscious bias: something we all have, simply because we’re human.”
Will our District employ such a video?
Judge Milton Hirsch's Constitutional Calendar has this entry today:
On June 22, 1933, in the Limestone County, Alabama, Courthouse, Judge James Edwin Horton did one of the bravest and most principled things a judge can do.
Judge Horton had presided over the trial of Haywood Patterson, one of the "Scottsboro Boys." Patterson was a young black man charged in connection with the rape of two white women; and although it was perfectly obvious that there was no real evidence against him, he had been convicted with a recommendation for death. Horton had been cautioned by an emissary from the state capitol that if he were to grant the defense motion to set aside the verdict and order a new trial, there would be no chance of his being re-elected. "What does that have to do with the case?" he replied.
On that warm day in June, Judge Horton read aloud in open court every word of his order. It took over an hour. The defense motions were granted.
As he knew he would be, Horton was defeated overwhelmingly in 1934, and never served as a judge again. Haywood Patterson was re-tried in a case presided over by Judge William Callahan, who instructed the jury, inter alia, that if there was evidence of intercourse between a white woman and a black man, the intercourse was presumed as a matter of law to be rape.
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